Gov. Rick Scott didn’t get much of what he wanted from the 2016 Legislature, but that’s not stopping him from a five-city tour touting tax breaks and jobs that he started this morning in Jacksonville.
The governor began his “million, billion jobs victory tour” in Jacksonville and plans to continue to Orlando, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers and Miami. At the Orlando stop, he will announce the state’s latest unemployment numbers.
Scott wanted $1 billion in tax breaks from lawmakers, along with $250 in economic incentives he could use to lure businesses to Florida. The Legislature gave him $400 million in tax cuts and shunned his bid for money to dangle before companies.
But Scott, apparently, is finding a way to make lemonade. With some generous math, he has added last year’s state and local tax cuts with proposed 2016-17 figures and is declaring that Floridians actually will pay $1 billion less in taxes over these two years.
The House approved the budget 119-1, moments before the Senate followed with a 40-0 vote. The two-month session ended at 6:45 p.m.
Still, legislators fear that Scott could veto hundreds of millions of dollars in spending — payback for their failure to embrace his $1 billion tax-cut proposal and $250 million in economic incentives aimed at luring businesses to Florida.
Scott, though, hardly sounded combative Friday night, gathering with lawmakers outside the House and Senate chambers after the session ended.
The Republican governor called the spending plan “a good budget.” He also seemed to shrug off his list of legislative losses.
“Look, everybody comes up here with their ideas,” Scott said. “I doubt there’s any tax I wouldn’t like to cut…What’s important is we’re giving money back.”
The session’s final day included a number of stop-and-starts and none of the usual frenzy of last-minute deal-making between the House and Senate on scores of policy issues.
Scott had outlined a $1 billion tax-cut plan that would kick-in over two years. The bulk of the reductions — $770 million — permanently erased the corporate income tax paid by retailers and manufacturers, a move the governor said was going to fire the state’s economy.
Scott also wanted $250 million in economic incentives. But lawmakers have kissed off that Scott priority, too.
Senate budget chief Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said he hasn’t spoken with Scott since he and his House counterpart, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, delivered the bad news on his wish list in a Friday evening meeting.
For his part, Scott hasn’t said much publicly, although most around the Capitol expect retaliation in the form of massive vetoes in coming weeks.
Only last week he insisted there was “plenty of money” in the state budget to do his $1 billion plan.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said he had a recent discussion with the governor.
“I talked to the governor on the phone, just briefly,” Crisafulli said. “I’ve always talked to the governor whether we’ve agreed on something or not.”
Crisafulli added, “Certainly, he’s not happy about it. But there’s a reality to all of it.”
Legislative leaders said that when state economists downsized revenue forecasts by $400 million in January, that effectively took Scott’s ambitious tax-cut plan off the table.
The House did come up with an almost $1 billion package of shorter term tax cuts after the revenue numbers changed — but that move seems lost in the fast-moving effort underway now to finalize a state budget deal.
The $400 million tax cut package still alive gets even narrower with House and Senate negotiators including in it $290 million in state funds used to reduce the state’s required property tax rate for schools by 5 percent.
The reduction may save homeowners and businesses some money in the coming year.
But that leaves only $110 million still to be parceled out by Lee and Corcoran. Those cuts are likely to include some sales-tax holidays and, maybe, a Scott priority — the permanent elimination of the sales tax manufacturers pay for equipment purchases, a reduction of $73 million.
“We’re focused now on the long range fiscal outlook of our state,” Lee said.
“He had a billion dollars over two years,” House budget chief Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said of the governor’s plan, which Scott has been touting for weeks. “That was his campaign promise.”
But Corcoran quickly pointed out that state economists last month downsized revenue forecasts by $400 million — a shift which he said basically made Scott’s business-oriented tax cut proposal unworkable.
“You have to be conscious of what that does to your out years,” Corcoran said, adding, “The fact that we got as close as we did to his campaign promise, given the reality of the shortfall, is amazing.”
Although no details on the how the Legislature’s tax breaks will be doled out, only half the $400 million is considered a permanent tax cut, with the remainder a one-year reduction.
Corcoran’s Senate counterpart, Tom Lee, R-Brandon, agreed that Scott’s $1 billion plan couldn’t fly.
“Those promises were made a long time ago, and the facts on the ground have changed,” Lee said.
As recently as last week, Scott insisted there was “plenty of money” in the roughly $80 billion budget proposal. Groundrules for Scott’s $250 million economic incentive package also were approved by the House and have remained generally supported by the Senate.
But that looks out the window now. Corcoran said the “very, very conservative House” wasn’t willing to endorse the concept of having a robust amount of incentive money to dangle before companies looking to move to Florida.
Corcoran was among Republican House members who voted against the economic incentive blueprint last week.
Scott’s office Friday night seemed to hold out some hope that the early budget decisions would change. Lee and Corcoran’s budget huddle was the first of several days of negotiations between the House and Senate.
Scott’s likely to continue lobbying to preserve more of his legislative package — but it’s a bad start for the governor.
West Palm Beach has been penciled in as one of nine cities the Republican governor will visit Jan. 13-15 to highlight job creation and the state hitting 5 percent unemployment last month — matching the national level but the state’s lowest rate in seven years.
Scott did his own math to claim that he and other state officials have spanned 1 million miles since 2011 in their effort to spark the state’s economy.
The campaign-like swing coincides with the start of the 2016 legislative session, where the governor faces an uphill fight in getting a $1 billion tax-cut package approved and $250 million for economic incentives.
Scott said the tour will “celebrate the success of our job creators and highlight the need to cut $1 billion in taxes and create the new Florida Enterprise Fund so we can make Florida first for jobs.”